Here’s how to cancel or postpone a cruise due to coronavirus

May 7, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post is regularly updated with the latest details of cruise cancellations and cancellation policy changes. 

Booked on a cruise between now and the end of the year? We wouldn’t blame you if you’re having second thoughts.

With the coronavirus outbreak still raging in many parts of the world, the death toll from the illness mounting and many places in a continuing lockdown, it surely doesn’t seem like a great time to have an upcoming cruise on the calendar.

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Even if your sailing isn’t scheduled to begin for many months, you’re probably weighing the March advisories from both the U.S. State Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that cited an increased risk of infection in a cruise ship environment. You might be thinking it’s simplest to just press pause on cruising until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

The good news for those itching to cancel a booking is that it’s easier than you might think — at least for now. Many cruise lines have greatly eased their cancellation policies.

Plus, most lines are proactively canceling departures on a rolling basis. In early March, all major lines canceled at least a month’s worth of sailings, and in recent weeks, many lines have extended their shutdowns into the early summer. Some lines even have canceled cruises into the fall.

In such cases, cruise lines generally are offering a choice of a full refund (actual cash back) or a credit for a future cruise. In an effort to preserve cash, many lines are offering incentives to get you to choose the latter, including bonus credit and onboard spending money.

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Some things to consider

Neither the State Department nor the CDC have ordered Americans to stop cruising. But they have strongly advised against it — at least until the worst of the coronavirus outbreak has subsided.

The two agencies issued advisories in early March that were very clear in their wording: Americans should not cruise for now. Both cited early evidence that the coronavirus can spread particularly fast on a cruise ship.

“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruise ships highlight the risk of infection to cruise ship passengers and crew,” said the CDC, which recently released a list of 21 cruise ships where passengers may have been exposed to coronavirus. “Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,”

Both agencies also warned cruisers that the U.S. government might not be able to evacuate them from foreign countries if they get caught up in a coronavirus-related quarantine situation. The U.S. government evacuated several hundred passengers from a Princess Cruises vessel in Japan, the Diamond Princess, that experienced a coronavirus outbreak in February.

“While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers … repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities,” the State Department said.

Related: The bizarre story of the last eight cruise ship passengers still at sea  

Flexible cancellation policies

Nearly all major lines started drastically easing cancellation policies in February as the coronavirus outbreak began spreading beyond Asia.

Many major lines now will let you cancel a cruise just a day or two prior to departure for a full refund in the form of a future cruise credit. That’s a huge change from normal policies. At many lines, you’ll normally lose at least part of your money if you cancel a cruise within 90 days of departure. Normally, if you cancel within a few weeks of a sailing, you’ll lose all of your money.

The new policies are temporary. At some lines, they only apply to sailings in the next few months. At others, the cut-off is far later. Norwegian Cruise Line, for instance, is allowing passengers booked on any voyage departing before Nov. 30 to cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit for the full amount they paid. The future cruise credit can be used on any sailing through Dec. 31, 2022.

Related: Cruises likely to be canceled into July as CDC issues ‘no-sail’ order  

Don’t rush to cancel

If you’re booked on a cruise that isn’t departing for a few months, there’s no need to rush to cancel in many cases. The relaxed cancellation deadlines at many lines mean you can hold off a bit to see how the coronavirus outbreak plays out.

“With the cruise lines loosening their cancellation policies, it really makes sense to wait as long as possible to cancel an upcoming cruise,” said Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, a large travel agency network. “Our advisers are encouraging their clients to hold off on canceling unless they are just wanting to change their travel plans. Many travelers are choosing close-to-home travel without hesitation.”

Before making a decision, it’s important to closely review your cruise company’s adjusted policy. Many (but not all) lines are posting their revised cancellation policies on their websites. Some have changed them more than once in recent weeks.

Related: Believe it or not, people still are booking cruises for the coming year 

If you have questions about canceling, it’s best to call your line directly (or your travel agent, if you’ve booked through one) to discuss your options before making a move.

Note that, in some cases where a ship has been chartered to an outside group for a specialized sailing, such as a music cruise, you’ll fall under the organizer’s cancellation policy and not the policy of the line. In such a case, call your trip organizer first.

Here, a line-by-line guide to cancellation policies as they stand now:

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has lifted restrictions to let passengers on any voyage add the line’s cancel for any reason policy, Travel Waiver Plus, to bookings. The policy, which costs $80 to $175, allows passengers to cancel a cruise for any reason up until 24 hours before departure.

Passengers who cancel under the policy receive either a future cruise credit that’s valid for 24 months, or a mix of a future cruise credit and a cash refund. Normally, a Travel Waiver Plus policy only can be booked in conjunction with AmaWaterways’ Cruise Protection Plan and at the time final payment for a cruise is made. The line has lifted that restriction to allow passengers to add the policy to any existing booking up to 48 hours in advance of any trip except those in Africa.

AmaWaterways has canceled all sailings through July 31. Passengers on the canceled sailings will receive a future cruise credit for 115% of the amount they paid. The credit can be applied to any sailing embarking through Dec. 31, 2022. Upon the expiration of the credit on Dec. 31, 2022, passengers unable to use it can ask for an extension or a refund equal to the original amount paid.

American Cruise Lines

Passengers booked on any voyage departing through Oct. 31 can cancel without penalty up until 24 hours before their trip begins. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. The credit must be used by Dec. 31, 2021.

American Cruise Lines has canceled departures through June 14. Passengers on the canceled sailings can choose between a future cruise credit for 125% of the amount they paid or a full refund. Future cruise credits must be used by Dec. 31, 2021.

American Queen Steamboat Company

Passengers can cancel any 2020 trip up to 30 days before sailing or up to June 15, whichever comes first. Standard penalties apply, but penalty amounts will be refunded to customers in the form of a future cruise credit. The credit must be used by the end of 2022.

American Queen Steamboat has canceled departures through June 21. Passengers on the canceled sailings can choose between a future cruise credit for 125% of the amount they paid or a full refund. Future cruise credits must be used by the end of 2022.

Avalon Waterways

Passengers on any sailing still scheduled to operate can cancel without penalty up to three days before departure.

Avalon has canceled departures through Aug. 31. Passengers on those sailings will get the amount they paid back in the form of a future cruise credit plus a bonus credit of $200 per person. They can use this credit to switch to a different trip operated by the line or any of its sister tour companies between now and the end of 2022. Avalon is part of the Globus family of brands, which includes the giant tour companies Globus and Cosmos. 

Azamara

Passengers with a reservation on any cruise booked before Aug. 1 can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits must be applied by Dec. 31, 2021 for any voyage through April 30, 2022.

Azamara has canceled departures through July 31. Passengers on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit must be applied by Dec. 31, 2021 for any voyage through April 30, 2022.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

Cruise-only passengers traveling in fewer than 30 days can switch to a new sailing date at no charge. Their fares will remain the same. Cruise-only passengers traveling in more than a month can cancel without penalty or switch to another sailing date. If they switch to another sailing date, they’ll receive a $50 onboard credit. Customers booked for a Cruise & Stay package that includes a stay in the Bahamas also can cancel or delay trips.

Bahamas Paradise has canceled departures of Grand Celebration through June 13 and Grand Classica through July 10. Passengers on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of what they paid for the canceled sailing. The credit must be used by the end of 2021.

Carnival Cruise Line

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before September can postpone the trip without penalty for up to a year. Passengers who postpone will get a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of the amount they paid that can be applied to the new sailing.

Carnival has canceled most departures through Aug. 31. The exceptions are sailings on eight ships — Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Vista, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation — that are scheduled to resume on Aug. 1. Carnival also has canceled all sailings from New York City and San Francisco for the rest of the year as well as all Alaska sailings.

Passengers on the canceled trips can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. If they choose the credit, they will get an additional credit of $300 or $600 per cabin, depending on the length of the cruise. Passengers who choose the credit option must book by Dec. 31, 2020 for a voyage departing before Dec. 31, 2022.

Related: Why Carnival is spending millions to remake its oldest ships

Celebrity Cruises

Passengers with a reservation on any cruise booked before Aug. 1 can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits must be used by April 30, 2022.

Celebrity has canceled all departures worldwide through July 31. The line has canceled Alaska departures through the end of June. Passengers on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit must be used by April 30, 2022.

Celestyal Cruises

Passengers booked on departures through Dec. 31 can cancel without penalty up until seven days before departure. Passengers booked on departures from Sept. 1 through the end of December can cancel without penalty up to 30 days before travel. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used for any 2020 or 2021 sailing.

Celestyal has canceled sailings through June 28. Passengers on affected sailings will get a future cruise credit equal to 120% of the amount they paid for the canceled trip. They will have until the end of 2021 to apply it to any sailing through 2022. Passengers who don’t use the credit before it expires at the end of 2021 will receive a refund equal to the amount they originally paid.

Crystal Cruises

Passengers booked on any Crystal voyage can cancel without penalty up until seven days before their trip begins. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit for 100% of the amount they paid for the canceled trip. Future cruise credits must be used by the end of 2023.

Crystal has canceled sailings of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity through the end of July and end of August, respectively. Sailings of Crystal Esprit are canceled through Aug. 2, and all river sailings are canceled through the end of June. The line also has delayed the debut of its new expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor, until Nov. 14.

Passengers on canceled sailings can get a full refund of their cruise fare plus port charges, taxes, fees and the cost of any air and hotel packages booked through the line. Alternatively, passengers can get a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare they paid, coupled with a refund of port charges, taxes, fees and the cost of air and hotel packages booked through the line. The credit can be applied to any voyage through Dec. 31, 2023.

Related: Cruise line ‘draws’ 16-mile-wide smile at sea as departure gift for passengers 

Cunard Line

Passengers booked on any Cunard voyage departing through Aug. 31 can cancel without penalty up until 48 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit. Future cruise credits can be applied to any voyage through March 31, 2022, if booked by Dec. 31, 2021. Cunard also has relaxed its final payment deadline for voyages taking place before Sept. 30. Final payment is now due 60 days in advance of sailing, rather than 120 days before sailing.

Cunard has canceled departures through July 31. Departures on Queen Elizabeth are canceled through Sept. 8. Passengers on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through March 31, 2022, if booked by Dec. 31, 2021.

Related: Your guide to Chase’s trip insurance coverage

Disney Cruise Line

Disney has canceled departures worldwide through the end of July. Sailings on the line’s four ships now are scheduled to resume from July 31 to Aug. 5. Passengers on canceled sailings can get a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of what they paid for the canceled sailing. Those who choose a credit must use it within 15 months of their original travel date.

Emerald Waterways

Passengers booked on departures through December can cancel without penalty up until 30 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit.

Emerald has canceled river and ocean sailings through Aug. 31. Passengers on canceled sailings will get a future cruise credit equal to 110% of the amount they paid for the canceled trip. The credit must be used for a sailing before June 30, 2023. Upon expiration of the credit in 2023, if it hasn’t been used, passengers can request a cash refund.

Related: Coronavirus forces cruise ships to drop anchor in unusual places 

Holland America

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before Aug. 31 can cancel without penalty up until 48 hours before departure. Passengers booked on voyages departing between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15 can cancel without penalty up until 30 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit. Future cruise credits must be redeemed by Dec. 31 for used for a cruise in 2020 or 2021.

Holland America has canceled all Europe, Alaska, Canada and New England sailings for the rest of the year. The line also has canceled a 79-day Grand Africa voyage that was scheduled to begin in Boston on Oct. 3 and end in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Holland America has canceled the sailings in several waves, the most recent of which occurred on May 6. Passengers on sailings canceled on May 6 who had paid in full can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. Those who hadn’t paid in full have the choice of a full refund or a credit worth double the amount they had paid as a deposit. Requests for refunds must be received by June 15. The credits are good for 12 months from the date of issue and must be used for a sailing departing before Dec. 31, 2022.

The refund and credit terms for cruises canceled before May 6 are slightly different.

Lindblad Expeditions

Passengers booked on any 2020 voyage can cancel without penalty up until 24 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used on any future trip through December 2021. The policy will remain in effect through at least June 30.

Related: You can sail on a self-disinfecting cruise ship with Hyatt points

MSC Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing on or before Sept. 30 can cancel without penalty up until 48 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be used by Dec. 31, 2021.

MSC Cruises has canceled departures through July 10. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through Dec. 31, 2021.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before Nov. 30 can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through Dec. 31, 2022.

Norwegian has canceled departures through July 31. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. Those who choose the credit and rebook by May 15 will get an additional 20% discount. The credit can be applied to any voyage from Oct. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2022.

Oceania Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before Sept. 30 can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through Dec. 31, 2022. 

Oceania has canceled departures through July 31. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through Dec. 31, 2022.

Princess Cruises

Passengers booked on any Princess Cruises voyage departing before July 31 can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through Dec. 31, 2021. Passengers on sailings departing from Aug. 1 to Oct. 15 can cancel up to 30 days before departure and receive either a future cruise credit or a refund.

Princess has canceled all Europe and Alaska sailings for the rest of the year as well as all Canada and New England sailings. It also has canceled Caribbean sailings through Nov. 4.

Princess has canceled the sailings in several waves, the most recent of which occurred on May 6. Passengers on sailings canceled on May 6 who had paid in full can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. Those who hadn’t paid in full have the choice of a full refund or a credit worth double the amount they had paid as a deposit. Requests for refunds must be received by June 15. The credits are good for any sailing departing before May 1, 2022.

The refund and credit terms for cruises canceled before May 6 are slightly different.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before Dec. 31 can cancel up to 48 hours before departure without penalty, assuming the original booking was made before May 31. They’ll receive a future cruise credit that can be used through Dec. 31, 2022.

Regent has canceled departures through July 31. Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit can be applied to any voyage through Dec. 31, 2022.

Royal Caribbean

Passengers with a reservation on any cruise booked before Aug. 1 can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits can be used for any open sailing. It must be applied by Dec. 31, 2021 or 12 months from the canceled sailing date, whichever is longer.

Royal Caribbean has canceled most departures through July 31. The exception are cruises out China, which only are canceled through June 30. Passengers on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. The credit must be applied by Dec. 31, 2021 for any voyage through April 30, 2022.

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Passengers booked on departures through December can cancel without penalty up until 30 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit.

Scenic has canceled river sailings through Aug. 31 and ocean voyages through Sept. 30. Passengers on canceled sailings will get a future cruise credit equal to 110% of the amount they paid for the canceled trip. The credit must be used for a sailing before June 30, 2023. Upon expiration of the credit in 2023, if it hasn’t been used, passengers can request a cash refund.

Seabourn

Passengers booked on any cruise departing before Aug. 31 can cancel without penalty as late as 48 hours before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be applied to a future booking by Dec. 31, 2020, or it will be forfeited in its entirety. The credit can be used for any sailing in 2020 or 2021.

Seabourn has canceled departures through mid-October, with its five ships returning to service on a staggered basis between Oct. 13 and Nov. 20.

Seabourn has canceled sailings in several waves, the latest of which was on May 6. Passengers on sailings canceled on May 6 who have paid in full can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of what they paid. Passengers on sailings who had not paid in full can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of their deposit, plus an onboard credit of $300 per room. The future cruise credit will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue and may be used to book sailings departing through Dec. 31, 2022.

The terms for refunds and credits for passengers on sailings canceled before May 6 are slightly different.

Related: Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about booking future travel now

Silversea

Passengers booked on any voyage departing before Dec. 31 can cancel without penalty up until two days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 100% of what they paid. Future cruise credits will be valid for two years.

Silversea has canceled departures into July with most ships resuming service between July 16 and July 26. Silver Wind won’t resume sailing until Nov. 11. Silversea also has pushed off the debut of two new ships scheduled to debut this year. Silver Moon now will debut no earlier than Oct. 2. Silver Origin won’t arrive until Aug. 22. Passengers on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit in the amount of 125% of the fare paid for the canceled trip. Future cruise credits will be valid for two years.

Tauck

Passengers booked on a cruise (or land tour) departing before July 31 can cancel without penalty. Those who cancel will receive a credit that can be used for a future trip.

Tauck has canceled departures through June 30. The line has said it would reach out directly to customers to discuss their options.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Passengers booked on any 2020 cruise can cancel without penalty up to 14 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that can be used for any 2020, 2021 or 2022 sailing. The future cruise credit also can be used in 2020, 2021 or 2022 at any of Uniworld’s sister brands including Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar and African Travel.

Uniworld has canceled departures through June 30. Passengers on affected sailings can rebook for another trip in 2020 or 2021, or receive a future cruise credit good for 24 months.

Related: Should I travel? Advice for the coronavirus outbreak

Viking

Passengers can postpone any cruise at any time up until 24 hours before departure with all cancellation fees waived. Passengers will receive a voucher for future travel valid for 24 months that can be used on any Viking cruise (river, ocean or expedition). The policy is applicable for any current booking and new reservations made through April 30.

Viking has canceled departures through June 30. Passengers on canceled sailings initially had the option of a full refund or a credit voucher for a future cruise. But, to choose the refund option, passengers had to contact Viking by April 6. The credit voucher will be valued at 125% of the amount passengers paid for the canceled sailing and be good for 24 months.

Virgin Voyages

The maiden voyage of the first Virgin Voyages ship, Scarlet Lady, has been postponed until Oct. 16. The vessel had been scheduled to sail its first “sneak-a-peek” voyage with paying passengers out of Miami on March 26.

Passengers on affected sailings can choose between a full refund or a credit for a future cruise. If they choose the credit, they will get 200% of the amount they paid to apply to a future sailing. Passengers also can get up to $500 in onboard credit if they rebook a sailing before June 30. Those who choose a refund will get a 25% credit toward a future cruise in addition to all their money back.

Windstar Cruises

Passengers booked on any cruise through Dec. 31, 2021, can cancel without penalty up until 15 days before departure. Those who cancel will receive a future cruise credit that must be used by Dec. 31, 2021.

Windstar has canceled all sailings through early September. The line’s three sailing ships — Wind Spirit, Wind Surf and Wind Star — will resume operations in September, November and January 2021, respectively. Its three motor ships — Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride — will restart operations in October, March 2021 and July 2021, respectively. Passengers on affected sailings can get a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to 125% of the amount they paid for the canceled trip. Those who choose a credit will have 24 months to use it.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image courtesy of Princess Cruises. 

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